Generally, foster carers cannot claim benefits for their foster children. The fostered child may be entitled to benefits in his/her own right. Here are some general rules but seek advice for details.
Child Benefit is not payable for a foster child who the local authority has placed and paid an allowance for. This is different however when a child is fostered privately. For more information see private fostering arrangements.
Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance - income based, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit
A foster carer cannot claim the above benefits for a foster child if the local authority has arranged the placement and is paying an allowance for the child. This is different however when a child is fostered privately. For more information see private fostering arrangements.
There are only certain situations when a person can claim Income Support, such as being a lone parent. Another reason is being a single foster carer.
A person cannot claim Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance if they work above a certain number of hours a week. But as they treat foster carers as not in work, claiming these benefits is not prevented by the hours a foster carer works.
This means that generally, a foster carer may be able to claim these benefits if they satisfy the rules but the foster children aren't included and the foster allowances are ignored.
Children cannot be claimed for in Pension Credit but any fostering allowances are ignored as income.
Foster carers cannot claim Child Tax Credit for a foster child who the local authority has placed and paid an allowance for. This is different however when a child is fostered privately. For more information see private fostering arrangements.
A foster carer may be able to claim Working Tax Credit. This is because tax credits treat foster carers as self employed. They must satisfy the other qualifying rules (for example 30 hours a week and aged over 25). The hours worked as a foster carer can be added to any other hours of work. And generally, fostering allowances which qualify for tax relief are ignored as income.
Better off claiming Income Support or Working Tax Credit?
Because of the above rules a foster carer may need to decide whether they would be better off claiming Income Support or Working Tax Credit (assuming they satisfy the rules). An advice worker should be able to calculate this.
National Insurance credits
Approved foster parents or foster carers (from April 2003) can be credited with National Insurance contributions - which go towards their entitlement to contributory benefits such as Retirement Pension.
Foster carers who are also full time students can get Housing Benefit if they are fostering a child - formally placed with them by the local authority or a voluntary agency. Usually it is quite difficult for full time students to get benefits.
The foster child
The fostered child may be able to get certain benefits in his or her own right. For example, if the fostered child is disabled they may get Disability Living Allowance; or if they are 16 or over and incapable of work, Employment and Support Allowance can be claimed. Other benefits like Income Support may also be payable in limited circumstances.
See also our advice on care leavers and benefits.
If you would like an informal chat about fostering, phone 0191 277 2430 or complete our fostering enquiry form
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Page last updated: 26 June, 2012